Fabric storage boxes – how to!


“I’m not buying anymore fabric until I sew through what I have, ” is a statement I make at least every three months. One day, I might actually follow through with it. I have no problem with hording art and craft supplies, but I was running out of storage space. We’ve got a great sized apartment, especially for Brooklyn, but it’s no suburban house with a basement and extra rooms. I have to keep my fabric in the small second bedroom we turned into a craft room, in the company of tubs of spray paint, power drills, and extension cords. For years, I’d been keeping my fabric in boxes sorted by color, the fabric piled in and somewhat folded, but really more wadded up. Searching for fabric involved digging and pulling everything out, which made it difficult to find anything or get ideas. I poked around on the internet and pinterest for storage solution ideas, but most of them seemed to assume I had a large suburban house, or a house at all.

I tested a version of Makezine’s filing cabinet and hanging file folder fabric storage, but I thought the hanging file folders were too flimsy to hold up any substantial amount of fabric. As an alternative, I designed a sturdier version using dowels, and it doesn’t require an actual filing cabinet. My hanging fabric file boxes have totally revolutionized our craft room and made fabric digging so much easier! Here’s my instructions for making your own fabric file box.

Hanging Fabric Storage Boxes 


Plastic hanging file folder boxes with lids, like these. (I used clear ones so I could see my fabric easier and because clear boxes would take up less visual space in the room).

Wooden dowels. I used dowels that were 3/8″ in diameter. How many dowels depends on how many fabric hangers you’re making. You’ll be able to get about three hangers from one full sized dowel.

7/8″ Washers. You’ll need two washers per hanger.

6X1/2 sheet metal screws with a flathead. You’ll need to screws per hanger. It’s important to get flathead screws because rounded screws will bump the edge and prevent easy gliding.

Tools needed:

-A ruler, a saw, a drill, and a screw driver.


Here’s a photo of how my system works: the fabric hangers are dowels with a screw and a washer at the end. The fabric is draped over the dowel. It’s a pretty easy process to make, but can be time consuming depending on how many hangers you need. (I think I made about 100). I’d also like to give a quick shout out to the company who designed and made this amazing duck fabric – De Islas.


Step 1: Measure and cut the dowels. 

Plastic file folder boxes have two grooves instead that are designed for the metal hooks on hanging file folders to hang in. You want each dowel to be slightly wider than the width of the inner groove, so it will rest on the edges with a bit of over hang. I made each dowel 12.75″ wide, because that’s the width of a file folder.

Make a mark on your full sized dowels every 12.75″. (You should be able to get three hangers out of a full dowel). After you’ve made all your marks, cut the dowel into pieces using a saw. Use some kind of clamp to hold the dowel in place.



Step 2: Drill guide holes for the screws

This will save you lots of time and frustration later. Using a small drill bit (I think I used a 3/32 bit), drill a hole in the center of the end of each dowel, about 1/2″ into the dowel.


Step 3: Insert the screws and washers 

On the each end of each dowel, put a screw into the washer hole. Then put the screw into the guide hole you created. Using a screw driver, twist the screw tightly into place, until you can’t twist anymore.


Step 4: Put your finished hangers in the boxes and add fabric!

I made six of these boxes, and I kept my fabric sorted by color. No more digging! I just have to open the lid and I can see exactly what I have.



Look how neatly these boxes fit on our shelf!


Meet Moushey

This is Moushey. He drives a boat. Sometimes he wears a sweater.

Look how chubby his cheeks are.

I made Moushey at an anthropomorphic taxidermy class at The Observatory, a truly wonderful and truly bizarre gallery space and library in Brooklyn. Making sure he was rightly proportioned and perfectly stitched took me a while, and I ran out of time to build him a kick ass diorama. Though, he seems content with just his wooden boat and his sweater.

In case you were wondering, I did not pick him up off the street and cut him open. The mice in the class came from a herpetology supply company. They were frozen mice intended as snake food. We used Borax to preserve his skin, and his insides were replaced with clay, pillow stuffing and armature wire.

On constructing mermaid costumes

As a kid, I’d make mermaid costumes for my Barbies by putting a short skirt around their feet and taping seashell snap beads to their boobs. When I was plotting a costume for my first mermaid parade back in 2010, it was considerably more difficult. If I didn’t need to walk, I probably would’ve just strapped a skirt around my ankles. Though even if a seashell bead was big enough for my bra, scotch tape was going no where near my nipples. I didn’t want a mermaid style gown, and I didn’t want my legs to be bursting out the middle of my tail. I wanted fins! I needed it to be clear that I was fish on the bottom. I briefly considered building some kind of wire-frame tail to cover with fabric, but then I found this Simplicity pattern:

Genius! They made a skirt-like tail with an asymmetrical hem with a little strap to wear around your wrist. Since I like to make costumes with days (or hours) to spare, I didn’t have time to order the pattern online or find it in a store. (Despite being the fashion capital of the world, it’s really difficult to find new-ish patterns in NYC fabric stores. Though if you’re ever looking to sew something a kindergarten teacher would wear in 1982, let me know. I have some hook ups). Instead, I made up a variation of this tail as I went.

To start, I made a skirt with two layers: shiny, translucent on top of sea green cotton. I put zipper in the side. Then I finished the hem on the cotton skirt to end several inches above my knees. Then I laid the skirt on the floor and cut the shiny layer at an angle, the bottom being the thinnest part. I turned under the fabric on each side and finished the hem to make sure my scales didn’t come unraveled. I was originally drawn to sequined fabric when I was shopping for materials, but I decided this shiny green look more fish-like. To make the bottom fins, I found a photo online of a fish fin I like the shape of. Then I blew up the photo in Photoshop to make a giant stencil. I cut out two fins on the fold, giving me two full tails. I sewed them together, then turned the right sides out. Then, I folded some galvanized wire into the shape of each tail fin and pulled the fabric over the frame. Then I sewed it to the rest of the tail, it looked like this:

To finish the tail, I sewed on waistband that matched the fin fabric and I sewed a hand strap on toward the bottom, so I could easily swim home into the ocean:

As for my top half, I have short hair. Draping my hair over my shoulders ala the cleaned up Starbucks logo was not an option. I would’ve loved to use actual or scallop shells, but the size of shells you can buy in a fun pack in Party City would fit me more like pasties. Instead, I took some scraps from my tail fabric and cut out several circles. I sewed each one to a circle of the sea green cotton. After turning the circles right-side out, I folded them like a fan and ironed them into place. I did a gather stitch across the bottom of each circle to make the little scallop tail (probably not actually called a tail). Each circle made a half scallop, and I attached them together with hot glue. For the bra portion of my seashells, I sewed pieces of the black shiny fabric I used for the fins directly onto an old bra. I made a darted portion to slide over the actual cups, then sewed pieces to cover the rest of it. I can’t explain my exact methodology for this; it involved sitting at my sewing machine in the wee hours of the morning frantically stitching and cutting. Then I hot glued the shells to the bra (and accidentally dripped hot glue down my torso in the process. This was still less painful than the time I burned my hip with a soldering iron).
While I was sewing, I assumed the back of the bra would loose some of its elasticity. I was right, but I underestimated how much elasticity. The finished seashell bra needed to stretch eight inches longer than it did to fasten. I added a piece of another old bra, but just ended up duct taping the bra together when I was running out the door.
My merman, E, made himself a pair of shiny green pants with bright blue fins. He traced a pattern by using another pair of his pants. He sewed the legs by hand, and stitched in bright blue fins on each leg. I’m still amazed he had the patience to sew a whole pair of pants without a machine. (I did help him sew the crotch on the machine).

For the 2011 parade, I wanted to change my costume up a little bit. My tail held up very well, but I decided to make a new sea creature to cover my boobs. (I also added a tie in the back of the bra so I didn’t need to be taped in). After much internal debate, I landed on an animal whose habit of clinging to rocks with minimal budging would make perfect boob cover. Starfish!

I sculpted them out of Model Magic, the fluffy Crayola modeling clay that air dries. I cut out two starfish shapes, then built up with the clay and moved the legs around to look natural. I painted them some acrylic paint. After they dried, I glued rhinestones along the legs in the middle, kind of like actual starfish spines. Then I glued them to the bra again. Eric made some updates to his costume too. He went over his pants with a sewing machine and spliced together a kelp necklace with some fabric scraps and rick rack.


Octo Friends!

Meet my new octo friend! (and check out my greasy hair).

He doesn’t have a name yet. He’s gonna go live at e’s house, so I’ll let him pick a name. I’ve been looking for quick sewing projects to work on to break up my cover letter writing sessions, and this little cephalopod will be the first of many. I found the pattern on Craftster.org. I’m going to make the tentacles a little wider on the next one to make machine sewing and turning it right side out a little easier.

Open source sewing!

Not to sound like a commercial, but this site is pretty awesome. One of my favorite skirt patterns ever was made by Burda, and they’ve officially kicked McCalls’ and Simplicity’s asses. Burda Style is a site with downloadable patterns (priced free to cheap), sewing tips, a blog, photos, etc. You can share your projects with someone besides the old ladies at the fabric store who question why you’d do something so crazy as buy remnants right before closing.